Slowing the pace with some heritage appeal at this romantic north-east retreat

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If your idea of a romantic time away with your significant other is peace, quiet and no stress, then at Macdonald Pittodrie House you’re in for a treat.

Situated in secluded grounds extending to 2,400 acres at the foot of Bennachie, yet just a 30-minute drive from Aberdeen or two hours from Inverness, it truly offers the best of both worlds for the discerning couple.

The house combines four-star luxury with history and breathtaking scenery. Bennachie, a range of hills, overlooks the rear of the house, and offers ancient history in the form of the Pictish fort on Mither Tap, around an hour’s walk from the hotel, as well as the Maiden Stone, a Pictish symbol stone just half a mile north-east of the hotel.

The lands around the house were granted to the Erskine family by King Robert the Bruce in the early 1300s, and the house was built by the family in around 1480 after their original castle was destroyed. Over the following centuries it was extended and improved, including one extension designed by celebrated Aberdeen architect Archibald Simpson. This combines to give the surroundings an opulent feel, yet it is friendly and relaxing.

Our stay came at rush hour on a Friday, and even with the busy traffic from the Granite City, within minutes of pulling off the hectic main road we were welcomed into the hotel by the efficient, friendly staff who set the tone for the rest of our stay.

As soon as possible after unpacking I headed to the comforting Drawing Room, where I’d spotted a log fire burning merrily away, to banish the increasingly cold winter weather we’d brought with us. My idea of absolute heaven was just a couple of hours of peace in front of the roaring fire, with my beloved opposite while we took up a Chesterfield sofa each and made ourselves at home.

The luxury was completed by the attentions of the waiter who brought us wonderful lattes complete with a naughty cube or two of tablet. The only thing missing was a dog to soak up the heat alongside, and indeed one of the waiters told us there had recently been guests staying at the hotel with their six dogs – not my idea of peace, but as dog owners ourselves, I could see the attraction.

The lovely lady manning the reception area was knowledgeable of the local area when we asked about accessing Bennachie direct from the hotel, and indeed there are several paths available for those interested in running, walking or meandering up the local landmark. It would have to wait until the next day for us, however, as it was dark outside and we were content to sit for a while, enjoying the heat and having time to devote to each other for a change. Surely the most romantic of gifts?

Before long it was time to head through to the Mither Tap restaurant for dinner, where we were treated to a fantastic meal with calm, friendly and efficient service, while Michael Buble playing in the background added to the ambience.

Macdonald Pittodrie House prides itself on the use of local produce, especially fish, so I had to start things off with the home-cured citrus salmon followed by the most delicious venison I’ve ever had. My partner went for the steak for his main, which came with proper, hand-cut chunky chips of the sort your mum used to serve to mop up gravy or sauce. After pudding we were treated to a relaxing cup of coffee while taking in our surroundings, complete with fabulous paintings, ornaments and items on display around the room, which added to the feel of being round at a posh friend’s for dinner.

The hotel offers other dining experiences too – the Orangery for private dining, although we ate there for breakfast the next morning, or the Snug Bar for the less formal experience. Afternoon tea in the Drawing Room is something I plan a return visit for. However, for a romantic meal for two, it’s hard to beat the Mither Tap.

After a very restful night in the comfiest four-poster bed I’ve ever had the fortune to sleep in, we filled ourselves at breakfast (the porridge deserves a special mention), before checking out and leaving our bags in the car and heading up Bennachie. The climb can be quite challenging at times, but even with the cloud that day, we were rewarded with the most spectacular views once I managed to stop trying to decipher the Pictish carvings on the top.

If you like your outdoors to be less energetic, there is a wealth of other activities available in the area, not least several golf courses with the closest at Inverurie, just six miles away. Tourist attractions include the ruined 12th Century Huntly Castle, a short drive along the A96, Strathisla Distillery at Keith, further along the same road, or head the other way and experience all that Aberdeen itself has to offer. Fyvie Castle offers a delightful day out for all the family, and Haddo House and Country Park are just the other side of Oldmeldrum. Castle Fraser is also a short drive away, and Alford offers another golf course option, or swimming.

With all there is to see, do and experience in the area, it is clear that Macdonald Pittodrie House offers more than one way to your heart.

Travel facts

Date night: Macdonald Pittodrie House has a Valentine’s menu on offer for £55 per person, which includes bubbles and canapes on arrival. Choose to stay the night and it’s £189 per couple including breakfast, or £269 per couple for two nights. Suite upgrades are available.

To book: Call 01467 622437 or email

Chapel of Garioch, Nr Inverurie, Aberdeenshire AB51 5HS